Advanced Persistent Threats: Detection & Protection

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

What is an advanced persistent threat and do you know of the dangers associated with it? Do you know how to prevent them or even detect them? This lesson can help answer those questions.

What is an Advanced Persistent Threat?

For many reasons, an advanced persistent threat is a nightmare for a company's IT team. An advanced persistent threat is one of the sneakiest threats to a company's computer network. They are programmed to find a weakness, sneak into the servers of the target organization, and wait for further instructions. Designed to hide in otherwise boring files, advanced persistent threats are especially prone to look like PDF files, making them especially easy to spread. In this lesson, we will look at how companies can act to detect advanced persistent threats as well as how to prevent them in the first place.

How to Detect Them

There are a number of signs that might indicate that you have been the victim of an advanced persistent threat. The most obvious of these is an upkick in network traffic at odd hours of the night. Let's say that your company is pretty standard in that most people are in no earlier than 7 am and out no later than 8 pm. Therefore, while you may expect to occasionally see someone online at 3 am trying to get some last-minute project done, you don't expect to see a number of users online, all transmitting large files. That would be suspicious, no doubt.

Additionally, is there anything suspicious going on with your data? If someone is accessing it from around the world, they may be copying and pasting it in folders that don't make any sense. For example, you'd be wary of any file that was altered using a program that is common in China, Russia, or North Korea, especially if your company has no business with any clients in those countries.

Finally, and perhaps the most common of all, have you had a swath of PDFs that have proven to be malicious files? While a few of these slip through no matter what, being infected with dozens of them is a clear sign.

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